Friday, 27 June 2014

Midleton - Very Rare 2014 - Review

Since taking over from Barry Crockett in March 2013, as master distiller of Midleton Distillery in Country Cork, I'm sure Brian Nation has already experienced many a high but I'm also quite sure that overseeing the upcoming release of his first bottling of the iconic Midleton Very Rare will be a moment that he treasures for years to come.

Launched in 1984 the Midleton Very Rare is a yearly release of 50 exceptional casks that have been handpicked by the master distiller and blended together to showcase all that the distillery has to offer.  This exclusivity and personal touch ensured that, from the first release, the Midleton Very Rare was to be revered and cherished.  An iconic status soon followed and now these bottles are sought out all over the world to be placed as a star asset in many a whiskey drinker's collection.  

All vintages are still available out there but be ready to pay a hefty price for the early releases with the Celtic Whiskey Shop, in Dublin City, offering the first release for a wallet beating €899.99.  Incidentally the very same shop can offer all of the 30 releases that have ever been released....up to this date.

And it is with this statement that I shall move onto the, soon to be released, 31st vintage - Midleton Very Rare 2014.

A good few weeks ago I arrived home to find yet another Dublin post stamped parcel lying in my hallway and upon seeing this amongst the other nonsense, that had been posted that day, I instantly became utterly excited as I knew that this little package of joy contained yet another sample from "The Celtic Whiskey Club".  Needless to say I was over the moon when I opened it to find a sample of the latest Midleton Very Rare neatly hiding within. 

For a little more insight into the whiskey itself it's worth pointing out that all Midleton Very Rare releases are a blend of the many styles of pot still whiskey made at Midleton Distillery along with some older grain whiskey.  The whiskey is matured in 1st fill bourbon casks which allows this to be regarded as one of the smoothest Irish whiskeys available.  With regards to age many age ranges are used, starting from around 12 years old all the way up to just under 30 years old.  

This particular bottling is bottled at 40% ABV.

As with all "Celtic Whiskey Club" samples a date and time is set aside for all lucky members to come together, via Twitter, for a "tweet tasting" and this particular tasting took place on Wednesday 25th June.  If you're quick you can still check out the tweets from the night via the hashtag #midleton14.

Here's my tasting notes:

Nose - Tropical with banana, mild orange and a nice underlying sweetness.  Unmistakably Irish and unmistakable pot still notes.  Initially the wood is understated but towards the end a distinct wood sap note appears which also gives a slight green / herbal feel to the whiskey.  Toffee and creme brûlée come through with the sweetness yet at the same time a lovely peppery spice sits in the background.  There's a great balance here between fruit, spice and sweetness.

Palate - Sweet, brown sugar, arrival.  Very, very smooth.  Pepper and ginger take over then give way to a green herbal note which feels more vegetal.  The fruit then starts to show with more banana, orange and now lemon juice.  Then after a few tastes the vegetal note turns back to the distinct wood sap that was found on the nose.  Very nice indeed.

Finish - Decent length with more fresh fruit and a tingling of ginger and clove all over the mouth.

Overall this is an impressive dram and an excellent start to the Brian Nation era of Midleton Very Rare.  The whiskey is balanced perfectly and the casks used have been particularly excellent with clearly a fair amount of life in them to deliver a wood sap note I've only ever experienced before in virgin oak matured whiskey.  

Long may his reign continue.

Thanks, once again, to the Celtic Whiskey Club and the Celtic Whiskey Shop for sourcing such a wonderful sample to enjoy.  I for one shall be renewing my membership when the time comes.

As always you can find some relevant links below.

Until next time,



Celtic Whiskey Shop -

Celtic Whiskey Club - Facebook Page -

Celtic Whiskey Club - Twitter Page -

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Belfast City Airport - Duty Free

On a recent trip to England I had the delightful pleasure of flying out of the George Best - Belfast City Airport and had an opportunity to browse through the whisky selection within duty free.

Now any of you who have flown out of this airport will know that it is not exactly up there with Heathrow in terms of size, choice of shops or facilities but as far as a lowly Northern Ireland airport goes the whisky selection is not too bad at all.

As you edge through duty free, towards the magical shelves, the first thing that strikes your eye is a "2 for £70" offer on selected bottles.  At the time of writing this the bottles in this offer included - 

Aberlour 12yr 
Ardmore - Traditional Cask
Auchentoshan - Springwood
Benromach 10yr
Chivas Brother's Blend
Drambuie 15yr
Glen Garioch - Founder's Reserve
Glenrothes - Robur Reserve
Highland Park - Einar
Jura - Superstition
Old Pulteney - Noss Head
Woodford Reserve

In addition they have a "2 for £60" offer on Johnnie Walker - Double Black.

With each bottle being 1 litre in size I'm sure you'll all agree that £35 a bottle for any of these (or £30 a bottle of Double Black) is good value indeed.  I am of course saying this in the knowledge and recognition that the majority of these are NAS whiskies but when you are hindered by a small number of quality whisky shops, in Belfast, I feel these represent good value to try something a little different.

Looking elsewhere along the shelves you will find more duty free exclusives from distilleries such as Talisker, Glenfiddich, Bowmore, Glenlivet amongst others.

For those of you wishing to sample a dram from a little closer to where you are flying from they have a decent selection of Irish whiskies with Bushmills and Jameson represented well alongside standard bottlings of Tyrconnell, Connemara, Greenore, Kilbeggan and Tullamore Dew.  The only real exclusive of note amongst these was a Jameson Signature Reserve.

Lastly I'll also make mention of the service that is provided for those of you who wish to avail of these offers but are flying away on a short trip and don't want to have to carry a couple of bottles of whisky around with you on your trip.  If this is a worry then you can buy as much as you like and allow the airport to securely store these for you where you can collect them upon your return to Belfast. 

All in all I feel, that amongst a limited market, the duty free at Belfast City Airport is an extra outlet that can sometimes be overlooked and should maybe be considered more often for a chance to expand your whisky collection.

Until next time,



"World of Whiskies" website with more info on bottles and offers -

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Caperdonich - 17 year old - - Review

After the fun of reviewing the Big Peat tweet tasting last week I thought it was time to start working my way back through my collection and with this I decided it was time to get into two specific bottles that I had bought a while back from

Set up by Martin Armstrong, is a company that was set up to source and sell casks of whisky to enthusiasts and clubs wishing to purchase larger quantities of whisky at cheaper prices per bottle.  In addition they also bottle a few more mature whiskies for anyone only wanting a bottle or two.

Obviously being only a lowly individual blogger I'm more suited to purchasing from, and commenting on, the individual bottles they have for sale.

A quick scan down through the online shop will show that they have a fine range range of whiskies available.  Most regions are covered with an excellent selection of ages and all bottled at very good prices.  Most are bottled at natural cask strength with all having no added colour and only lightly filtration to remove large particles of wood sediment.

Last year I made my first purchases from this site, treating myself to two types of whiskies I had yet to enjoy owning, a bottle from a closed / demolished distillery and a bottle of a decent age.  It is the first of these bottles that I shall be reviewing today.

First built in 1898, Caperdonich was originally known as Glen Grant #2 after being opened by the founders of Glen Grant distillery.  In it's initial form it only managed to last 4 years before being closed until 1965.  When re-opened it's name was changed to Caperdonich and in 1967 two steam heated pot stills were added to the distillery.  

Pernod Ricard bought the distillery in 2001 before closing it in 2002 and in 2010 the distillery was demolished for good.  

In it's heyday it was a component of some of the blends manufactured by Chivas Regal and in 2005 it's only official bottling was released which was a cask strength sixteen year-old.

The bottle I obtained from was, as stated, a 17 year old that was distilled on 13th May 1995 before being bottled on 14th February 2013.  It is a single cask bottling that has been bottled at 55.0% ABV and the further information states that this is a third release of 220 bottles coming from hogshead number 95068.

Onto my notes:

First thing I would like to say about this whisky is that it took a good 6 months and half a bottle to allow this whisky to settle down.  When first opened this was unbelievably feisty and struggled to show it's true character but it has now managed to relax itself down enough for me to get to grips with it.

Nose - When first poured this whisky coats the glass beautifully.  If without an ABV you would be in doubt that this was very strong in alcohol due to the liquid being thick and syrupy.  With a little time in a glass we start to get properly into the flavours.  Orange, clove, coconut, wood vanilla, menthol and bags of butter dominate.  There's some serious, sugary, sweetness going on, presumably from the malt, along with some mashed banana and red apple.  This is a real fruity number when given time.  With a good blast of water the nose becomes even more buttery with perfume and a strange zing that I can't quite put my finger on, maybe sherbet.  

Palate - Chokingly hot!!! Chewing through the alcohol drys the mouth out to extreme levels but if you work with it the fruit on the nose eventually shows through.  More orange and apple with hints of pear.  Still very sweet and creamy but hard to pin any other flavours down due to the intense alcohol.  With water the dram does become softer and in fact it can take a serious amount of water which does allow the fruitiness to take over.

Finish - Numbing with final finishes of fresh fruit.

Overall this is a great experience.  In my opinion this distillery had some amazing flavours within it's spirit which appear to have been outdone, in this instance, by a bad cut of alcohol / a poor cask being used.  I think the way this has been bottled is completely perfect as it allows you to see, naturally, the good and bad points of this distillery.  Without doubt I'm enjoying working my way through this whisky and it's certainly not one you can taste once and drink through quickly.  It takes time and patience to allow it to gradually open up along with a bit of experimentation with water to see how to best to extract all those flavours hidden deep within.

As far as my opinion of goes it is easily my favourite site to purchase whisky from due to its excellent range, style of bottling and fantastic prices.  Where else would I get a 17 year old demolished distillery and a 29 year old single malt for a little over £100.

In case you all fancy getting yourselves over to pick up a special bottle or two I've included a few links to below.

Until next time,



Whiskybroker main site -

Whiskybroker Twitter -